Even though mindfulness has been around for hundreds (if not thousands) of years, most people still don’t know what it exactly is.
One group of experts on mindfulness defined mindfulness as “the nonjudgmental awareness of experiences in the present moment”.
Make no mistake, mindfulness is not a magic trick that eliminates stress and gives you the life of your dreams overnight. While it’s possible to get these benefits on the long-term, the expectation of amazing immediate results is what turns so many people away from mindful practices.
But if you stick to it and make mindfulness part of your life, it can have a powerful impact on your life (in a good kind of way).
After consistently bringing mindfulness into my life, I’ve noticed that…
1. Only What’s In Front of Me Really Matters
I was intrigued by the idea of meditation (a practice that promotes mindfulness) for years, but never really got into it.
That is until I read “Buddhism for Mothers” four years ago and everything changed. In those days, my husband spent more time at the office than at home, so I was basically raising a two year old by myself.
Before reading this book, I never lived life in the present moment. When I wasn’t thinking about what might happen I was thinking about what had already happened. I used to analyze arguments with my husband until I couldn’t remember what exactly happened.
After reading this book and having time to process the information I realized that I live in the present moment and only the present moment. There is only what’s in front of me – right here, right now. The past and future only exist in my mind.
2. Knowing What I Want Helps Me Eliminate What I Don’t Want
You know, the world is full of amazing things – there are mountains to climb, businesses to start, and an infinite number of things to learn. I used to beat myself up for all the wonderful things I wasn’t doing.
But now when I ask myself, “What do I want to do now?”
I don’t answer with, “Climb Mount Everest” or “Start a successful business.” Many other people have these amazing things on their “lists”, but they are not on mine. Who knows, maybe they’ll show up one day, just not today. Today, my passions are simple and my goals are clear – my writing and my family.
3. Everything Doesn’t Seem That Big
I used to spend much of my day in habitual reactions; when my son would throw a fit, my heart would start racing. I’ve come to realize that in the grand scheme of things, a temper tantrum is not a big deal. But in the heat of the moment, it seems like a really big deal.
Now, I just breathe in, breathe out and put things in perspective. With mindfulness, I became aware of my triggers, and then slowly, over a period of few months, I learned how to ignore them and how not to react to every little thing that annoys me.
4. I Finally Understand the Meaning of “Carpe Diem”
Roughly translated, Carpe Diem means “seize the day”. Chances are, you already knew that, but even if you didn’t, do you truly grasp what it means?
To understand the phrase truly is easier said than done. When you’re anxious, your mind races from worry to worry, you’re always one-step ahead of yourself, or you think what to say while the other person is speaking. I simply assumed everyone did this. Thankfully, after a full year of meditation, I let go of having control over everything, became more creative and even spontaneous.
5. I Became More Compassionate
Buddhist scholar Yoshiharu Nakagawa claims that compassion and awareness are basically the same thing in his book “Awareness and Compassion for the Education of Enlightenment.”
I’ve come to realize the more I am aware of the present moment, the more I am in tune with the people around me. In turn, this made me more compassionate.
Most of the time, we help others because “we know we should”, but once we become aware of others, we help because their pain is our pain.
Don’t get me wrong – my life isn’t perfect in any shape or from; while mindfulness helps a whole lot, it didn’t eliminate the stressors from my life. My son still throws fits, my husband still doesn’t do the dishes and people still cut me off in traffic basically every single day. As I mentioned in the opening, mindfulness is an ongoing process, and it will take time before you become more aware of your feelings, thoughts and body sensations, and before you stop being overwhelmed by them and take control.